16 MAY 2023

HBO: from premium cable to streaming giant

In its latest report, BB Media took a look at the evolution of the HBO brand, tracing its journey from premium cable to streaming giant.

16 MAY 2023

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HBO launched in 1972 as a premium cable channel in the United States. The first broadcast was an NHL game, followed by the movie “Sometimes a Great Notion” (1971). Back then, viewers tuned in to watch commercial-free, uncut movies and exclusive live events.

Over the years, HBO continued to innovate by producing original series and miniseries. In the 90s, it had successes like “The Larry Sanders Show” (1992) or “Dream On” (1990). In the new millennium, HBO produced groundbreaking series like “The Sopranos” (1999), “Sex and the City” (1998) and “The Wire” (2002), paving the way for premium cable and streaming services.

In 2013, when viewers still relied on their cable subscriptions to access on-demand content, HBO Go made its grand entrance, with a library boasting 804 titles, consisting of 88% of movies and 12% of series. HBO Go was initially available in the United States and eventually expanded to several countries across Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia, including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Poland, and the Philippines, among others.

Meanwhile, HBO Now emerged as a standalone streaming platform in 2015, catering to an eager US audience who desired the content on-demand. It was initially exclusive to the United States, but later became accessible in Puerto Rico and certain US territories as well. With 809 titles, 683 movies and 126 series, HBO Now broke free from the cable subscription chains, offering viewers a new way to enjoy their favorite content at a price of US·14.99 per month.

Five years later, in the year 2020, a new platform named HBO Max came to life. At launch, BB Media informed the platform featured 944 movies and 222 series, with a staggering 443 original titles. HBO Max offered the first episode of certain series for free, enticing viewers to dive deeper into their vast library, all at a monthly price of US$14.99.

In contrast to its predecessor, HBO Max made a more significant global push, launching not only in the United States but also in 39 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. In Europe, they expanded to countries such as Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, according to BB Media.

As HBO Max was introduced, it also received critical acclaim for its original programming. Series like “The Flight Attendant” and “Lovecraft Country” both earned several Emmy nominations in 2021; with “Hacks” winning three Primetime Emmy Awards. Additionally, “Mare of Easttown” (2021), HBO Max’s miniseries, won four Primetime Emmy Awards, further solidifying the platform’s commitment to quality programming.

The merger with Discovery marked a new chapter in HBO Max’s story, expanding its library and further solidifying its place in the streaming landscape. As the platform flourished, it introduced new subscription plans in 2021: monthly and yearly with (US$9.99 and US$99.99), and yearly without ads (US$149.99). In 2022, it also added the possibility of accessing HBO Max with a cable subscription.ads 

In a world filled with streaming giants, HBO Max continued to innovate, partnering with YouTube Premium to create a commercial bundle for subscribers, starting at US$11.99. The platform’s journey was not without challenges, as the US economy forced a price increase on their monthly plan to US$15.99 in January 2023.

By April 2023, HBO Max boasted 2.612 movies and 652 series. With an impressive 26.627 hours of content, 68% of which were local to the United States, HBO Max continued to run for the top in the streaming world.

In terms of award-winning content, BB Media observed that the platform boasts an impressive array of titles that have captured the hearts of audiences and critics alike. Among the most celebrated titles on the platform is the series “Game of Thrones,” which has garnered a remarkable 61 wins and 135 nominations. The kids’ program “Sesame Street” follows closely with 51 wins, while the groundbreaking South Korean film “Parasite” has reaped 47 awards.

In April 2023, the upcoming launch of the rebranded platform Max was announced, reflecting the integration of Discovery+ and a host of new original series. With the integration of Discovery+, Max will further enhance its content offering, providing subscribers with access to over 61.000 of hours of informative and engaging documentaries, as well as popular reality TV franchises.

Max will offer three subscription plans: the first two plans will maintain the existing HBO Max pricing at US$15.99 for the ad-free version and US$9.99 for the ad-supported version, ensuring a seamless transition for current subscribers. The third tier, Max Ultimate, will expand to up to four streams at a price of US$19.99 per month, providing subscribers with even more options to suit their needs.

“As Max prepares for its highly anticipated launch on May 23, the industry and audiences alike are eager to see how the platform will rise to the challenges of the streaming market. In a world where content is king, Max is poised to make its mark by staying true to its core values of innovation, quality, and diversity,”  commented Lucía Gorla Falcón, Multiscreens+ Product Manager at BB Media and the author of the report.